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Four new collections up for the Forward poetry prizes – review roundup

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Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz; Citadel by Martha Sprackland; Magnolia 木蘭 by Nina Mingya Powles; and The Air Year by Caroline Bird

When the toxic legacies of US racial politics boil over into mass protest, as now, it is always worth remembering how one person’s state of emergency is someone else’s quotidian normality. “The war never ended and somehow begins again”, writes Natalie Diaz in the opening poem of her remarkable collection Postcolonial Love Poem(Faber, £10.99), which has been shortlisted for the Forward prize. Building on her striking debut, When My Brother Was an Aztec in poems of blasted landscapes and fierce desire, rivers and snakes and basketball (which she once played professionally), Diaz unfolds a poetry of radical embodiment and embodied radicalism. An inscribed member of the Gila River Indian Community, Diaz commands a cosmic-mythic range (“I carry a river. It is is who I am … This is not metaphor”), while also writing poems of rare intimacy (“Ode to the Beloved’s Hips”). Seldom since Allen Ginsberg’s Howlhas British poetry had more to learn from a US import.

This article was amended on 2 July 2020, to correct Will Harris’s name and the capitalisation of his book, RENDANG.

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